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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

vi        THE SECOND PHASE OF THE OCCUPATION      103
hoped would rescue the fellaheen from the hands of extortionate village usurers, had not stopped the alarming growth of their indebtedness. Prosperity seemed to stimulate rather than to arrest it. Lord Kitchener took up the question with his customary energy, and the most important measure with which his name will remain associated in Egypt was that known as "The Five Feddan Law " (one feddan equals one acre roughly). It was enacted in 1912 on the Indian analogy of the Punjab Land Alienation Act, which was passed in order to save the ryot of Upper India from the worst consequences of his inexperience and improvidence. Though hastily prepared and open to much criticism, it was a real boon to the small peasant proprietary, as it made it illegal in future to sell up the land or agricultural chattels of any owner of less than five feddans. Over a million fellaheen came into this category.
Though Lord Kitchener travelled a great deal about the country and had through his former connection with the Egyptian army a large circle of personal acquaintances, to whom he was always very accessible, amongst all classes in the rural districts as well as in Cairo, he could not make good, even if he was conscious of it, the gradual loss of contact between many of the most important agencies of British control and the people, which was due to a variety of causes. In the early days, when a small body of British officials was engaged in planning and carrying out great schemes of reconstruction, whether irrigation works or readjustment of land tax or administrative reforms, they spent the greater part of their time moving up and down the country, living mostly in camp and always in close contact with the people, always ready to listen to their stories and to hear their grievances, and the fellaheen, simple and good-natured folk on the whole, who love to hear themselves talk, learned to regard them as their friends. Then, as the tremendous pressure of work subsided, and the original pioneers passed off the stage, the system of personal co-operation was            als<> the development of light railways and the introduc